ANAHEIM -- The Angels faced the division-rival Rangers on Monday without a man who has haunted them for years, Nelson Cruz, who was one of 13 players suspended for their link to the now-shuttered Biogenesis anti-aging clinic.
Josh Hamilton, who shared the outfield with Cruz over the previous five years, said he was "very surprised" to hear the news and was mostly forgiving, saying: "He made a mistake, and I've made plenty of those."
C.J. Wilson, Cruz's teammate in Texas from 2006-11, was not.
"I've known Nelson for many years, always thought he was a great guy and teammate, but at this point, he's a competitor, on the other team, so it's immaterial what I think," said Wilson, also the Angels' players' union representative. "He got hits off me and I'm [ticked] off about that."
Cruz, who addressed his team before the start of a three-game series but was not made available to the media, has posted a .292 batting average and an .877 OPS in 106 career games against the Angels, with 25 homers and 69 RBIs. During last week's three-game series in Texas, which the Rangers swept on the strength of three walk-off homers, Cruz went 5-for-9 with a homer and three walks.
"It's affected our team," Wilson said of all those violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program. "We've played against these guys. They've all hit home runs against us, struck us out, and we're not happy about that. We were hoping [the suspensions] would happen sooner rather than later to give us a chance to play against the clean guys."
MLB on Monday suspended 13 players as a result of the league's Biogenesis investigation. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez received the stiffest penalty -- a 211-game ban without pay through the end of the 2014 regular season. Rodriguez, 38, has appealed the suspension, which is to begin Thursday. His case will be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz.
Rodriguez's discipline, MLB said in its written announcement, is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years. Rodriguez's discipline under the Basic Agreement is for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to "obstruct and frustrate" the investigation.
Wilson believes the A-Rod ordeal is "going to end in a [ESPN] '30 For 30' special."
"It's a saga; always has been for him," Wilson said. "He's been in the spotlight for 20 years. Nothing is gonna change that. He has one of those polarizing personalities that people are going to be drawn to. People will think he's a villain no matter what he does.
"Good for the game that they're finally getting him on something. All these press conferences, Good Morning America, 20-20, enough of that -- let's just play some baseball and stop trying to be a role model. All those quotes are hilarious for everybody in our clubhouse."
The other players who were handed 50-game suspensions include Cruz, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo and recently demoted Mets utility man Jordany Valdespin. Minor Leaguers Fernando Martinez, Jordan Norberto, Fautino De Los Santos, Cesar Puello and Sergio Escalona were also suspended.
"I think the issue centers around greed," Wilson said. "If anybody says it's something else, they're not telling the truth. The players want to do well because they want to get bigger contracts. That money they earn is tainted, just like their statistics are.
"We need the greed to stop. I've accepted the fact I'm not a $300-million player. God didn't bless me with that. I'm dealing with regular-guy stuff and trying to compete, and that's the way it is for the rest of the guys in this dugout. You're dealt a certain hand and you have to play that. Stop being a baby and move on."
Hamilton hasn't reached out to Cruz yet, but plans to in due time.
In a statement, the 33-year-old slugger attributed his PED usage to "a gastrointestinal infection" that affected him from November 2011 to January 2012 and forced him to lose 40 pounds weeks before the start of Spring Training last year.
"I was there last year and I saw him when he came to Spring Training and what he looked like," Hamilton said. "I asked the same questions everyone else did. 'What happened?' 'How did you get sick?' There was nothing he said to me that made me question anything.
"It's one of those things, you know? You're teammates, you spend a lot of times with him. Some guys keep certain parts of their lives to themselves. Take from what you see. Nellie was always a good teammate. I enjoyed playing with him and enjoyed having him in the locker room."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less